Tag Archives: Mobile phone

The Bluetooth Runaround

Today we have yet another tale of consumer woe and multiple corporate failures.  This one is a doozy, since it affects a couple of popular products and is generating a lot of chatter on the interwebs.  In fact, one popular site has over a hundred comments on this topic and that’s just a subset of the problem.

Android invasion, Sydney, Australia

(Photo credit: Pranav Bhatt)

As our featured players we have a very popular phone, a couple of very popular families of cars, every cell phone carrier (notice I didn’t use the term “popular” with them) and a LOT of consumers.  Let me explain.

A coupe of months ago I upgraded my phone to the Galaxy SG3.  I love the phone – great display, very fast – no complaints at all.  It came with the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android and I use AT&T as my carrier.  When I got the phone I linked it to my car – a Nissan Altima Hybrid – using Bluetooth and was happily using the car’s built-in hand’s free system to chat and drive safely.

A month ago I became even happier when AT&T pushed an upgrade to Android, installing the Jelly Bean version.  The phone seemed even faster, I got Google Now, and  I was happy to be running a more current version.  Until I received a phone call in the car.  It sounded like an alien calling and I had to pull over to pick up the phone and talk.  I rebooted the phone, it connected to the car, but the sound was bad.  Unusable, actually.  I tried pairing it again to the car, hard resets of the phone and a few other tricks but the audio is completely garbled.

A search on the topic showed me that we have a multiple part blame game going on.  It is an issue affecting not just Nissans but VW/Audi, Inifinitis and a few other models.  Just this phone, every carrier, and only when the phone is upgraded to Jelly Bean.  The carriers say it’s Samsung’s fault.  Samsung says the auto guys need to upgrade the Bluetooth software in their cars.  They all blame Android for not making the Bluetooth version in Jelly Bean backward compatible.

Here is what none of them are doing:  taking responsibility for fixing it.  What they’re not seeing is that it’s costing them money as well as massive amounts of goodwill.  At a minimum  it’s hundreds of calls to customer service, each of which costs money   In the case of the carriers, many people are demanding new phones (which have the older version of Android) to replace the upgraded one.  That’s expensive.  Does any business have too many customers?  There are a lot of cars/phones/carriers from which one can choose, and while very few people are going to make an immediate change to their car or carrier, people don’t forget how they were supported when the time for that evaluation comes.

I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with this.  Maybe I’ll just try to use the phone’s speaker if I get a call while driving.  Maybe I’ll go get a new S3 and not upgrade it until I see this is fixed or they push another version of Android (the rumors are 4.2.2. fixes it).  I’m really interested to see if any party to this mess steps up and does something other than point fingers.  Why am I not surprised?  Isn’t that sad?

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Men Don’t Shop – They Buy

There was a great movie that came out in 1979 called “Starting Over.”

Cover of "Starting Over"

Cover of Starting Over

It starred Burt Reynolds as a newly divorced man and featured Oscar-nominated performances by Candice Bergen and Jill Clayburgh.  I thought of that film the other day as I read about a piece of research from the folks at  uSamp.  I’ll explain why in a second, but first the research findings, which you can read about here:

Men are more likely than women to buy a variety of products, including digital content and consumer electronics, on mobile devices.  30% of male respondents in uSamp’s study said they have bought digital content via a mobile device, compared to just 20% of women. The disparity is even wider when it comes to consumer electronics; 27% of male respondents said they have bought a consumer electronic via a mobile device vs. 8% of female respondents. Men seem to be more active on mobile devices after the purchase as well. 35% of male respondents (females: 28%) indicated that they have commented on a purchase via a mobile device, and 26% (females: 16%) have written a review of a purchase.

There is a scene in the 30-year-old movie which reminds me of why the above is no surprise.  After he gets kicked out, Reynolds’ character needs new stuff – a bed, etc.  He goes shopping by walking quickly through the department store aisles followed by a clerk pushing a cart.  He slaps items as he goes, which the clerk throws into the cart.  The point is that most men don’t look as shopping as an experience but as a task, and we all know that tech devices are great at helping us accomplish tasks more quickly and efficiently.  Men don’t “shop” – we buy.

Your primary target is something to consider as you’re thinking through the customer experience   The differences between male and female shoppers should be taken into account.  If you’re a sporting goods store,for example,  maybe spending more money on anything that makes the process more efficient (faster checkout, more visible information about products, huge store directories) is a better investment than in-store music, snazzy graphics, or clever displays.  One can carry that thinking to a web shopping experience, a sports app, or any other business.

See the movie if you get a chance, and remember the lesson even if you don’t.  Funny how research keeps echoing real life!

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You Carry A Tamagotchi, Honestly.

Anyone remember the Tamagotchi?  They were a late 1990’s phenomenon – digital handheld pets.  The owner had to care for them on a daily – maybe even hourly – basis or they’d die.  Not a fun experience for either the owner (generally a child) or the parent.

I was reminded of the constant care and feeding required by those things this morning as I booted up my phone and found nearly a dozen app updates that needed to be installed.  That, of course, was after I updated a half-dozen yesterday.  Don’t get me wrong – some of the updates contained wonderful enhancements to the app and were very welcome but way too many were either bug or security fixes.  In fact, if you own a smartphone, notice how often you get an update followed within a day or two by another.

Having worked on a few mobile apps, I know how hard it can be to catch everything in QC.  We’re not going to have the Android vs. iOS chat now but even in a closed system like iOS there are multiple versions in multiple devices and the updates come fast and furious.  Using the mobile web and web apps is better although various browser/hardware/OS issues still make testing hard.  At least the user doesn’t have to do any updating though.

The real issue for me is that I’m not sure there’s enough thought or care given to the constant update issue.  Some apps will do a partial release – they think if a button was bigger it would get better results so they push an update to some of their users to test it.  Other apps decide to change the permissions (to get more of them and more data) on their installed base knowing that most people don’t look at that when they install the update.  Still others move features behind a pay wall.  Obviously security issues need to be fixed immediately, but a logo change can certainly wait until a big release, right?

Way back when in the early web days the dream was for a universal browser looking a web sites – no client side activity at all.  Now in mobile it’s gone back the other way – dedicated client-side apps have replaced the server activity.  Maybe it’s that apps are a closed world – I’m not shopping Barnes & Noble while I’m in Amazon’s app.  But there’s got to be something other than grown-up Tamagotchi worlds living on our smartphones.

Thoughts?

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Another Marketing Disconnect

Orwell’s 1984is (or used to be) required reading

1984-1140031

(Photo credit: beachblogger42)

in many high schools and maybe that’s what triggered the findings of a study I’d like to share today.  As you’ll recall, in Orwell’s Oceania, there is no privacy.  Most people’s apartments are equipped with two-way telescreens, so that they may be watched or listened to at any time. Similar telescreens are found at workstations and in public places, along with hidden microphones.  Maybe this notion of having one’s privacy disappear lingers in the back of our minds from having read the book.  We could have a long chat at this point about how the non-fictionalized world in which we live is approaching this but I’d like to focus on some research instead.

The folks at Berkeley have released a study on mobile phones and privacy.  I’ll let them tell you what they found:

We found that Americans overwhelmingly consider information stored on their mobile phones to be private — at least as private as information stored on their home computers. They also overwhelmingly reject several types of data collection and use drawn from current business practices. Specifically, large majorities reject the collection of contact lists stored on the phone for the purposes of tailoring social network “friend” suggestions and providing coupons, the collection of location data for tailoring ads, and the use of wireless contact information for telemarketing, even where there is a business relationship between the consumer and merchant.

Respondents evinced strong support for substantial limitations on the retention of wireless phone usage data. Respondents also thought that some prior court oversight is appropriate when police seek to search a wireless phone when arresting an individual.

The Media Post summary of the specific data shows how civilians (proles?) really do NOT want app makers and marketers crossing over the privacy line:

Eighty-one percent of cell phone owners surveyed by UC Berkeley said they either “definitely” or “probably” wouldn’t allow an app to collect a contact list in order to suggest more friends. An even greater proportion, 93%, said they definitely or probably wouldn’t allow an app to collect friends’ contact information in order to offer them coupons.  The study also found that people aren’t thrilled with the prospect of location-based ads. A staggering 92% of survey respondents said they either definitely or probably wouldn’t allow a cell phone provider to use their location to tailor ads to them.

We as marketers see convenience in suggesting friends or tailoring messages.  Our customers see an invasion of privacy.  That’s a pretty big disconnect.  Where do you stand?

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I Can’t See You

Once in a while we play a little game of compare and contrast which is what we’ll be doing today.

Person with PDA handheld device.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The two items causing a bit of cognitive dissonance are studies from Pew and from Mongoose Metrics.  Let’s start with Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project:

  • Nearly a third (31%) of adult U.S. mobile Web users say they now go online mostly through their cell phones
  • Leading the mobile-only Web trend are young people and minorities. Nearly half of all 18- to-29-year-olds (45%) who access the Internet on phones do most of their online browsing on their mobile device. Half (51%) of African-Americans and 42% of Hispanics in the same category also mostly go online through their phones. By contrast, only 24% of white mobile Web users turn mainly to their devices for Web access.
  • Less affluent (income of under $50,000 annually) and less well-educated people were also more likely to rely mostly on their phones for Web browsing than those with higher incomes and college or higher levels of education.

OK – pretty straightforward.  Nearly everyone has a mobile device, more than half (55%) use them to go on the web at some point, and as incomes go down the mobile device tends to become the primary point of access.  Got it.  Next.

Part of the 2012 Mongoose Metrics Data Series found that mobile internet access accounts for approximately 9 percent of all traffic. However, the report also found that about 10 percent of websites are fully optimized for mobile access, which means 90 percent are incapable of serving these users completely.

Oops.  You can read the study here if you’re interested.  It also reminds us that 80% of users preferred mobile sites when searching for prices and product reviews.  But then again, if they can’t see the great content you have, what difference does it make?

We’re at yet another point of change.  The desktop computer is dying a lingering death, and I think it will be an enterprise-only device within 5 years.  So why are a lot of us behaving as if nothing has changed?  We need to be thinking and building mobile first, as the data points out.  After all, being discoverable and social is useless if you’re not optimally visible.

Right?

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Why Your Phone Won’t Stay Charged

My phone almost ran out of power the other day.

Angry Birds

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience – a busy day of calling and mail and suddenly you’re getting the red battery indicator, triggering a desperate search for an outlet.  Not fun at all, especially when it doesn’t feel as if you’ve been all that careless about battery use.  Oh sure, you checked Facebook a couple of times and there was the 10 minutes of Angry Birds during a coffee break.  Well, that might be all it took.

According to research conducted by the folks at Microsoft, free mobile apps which use third-party services to display ads drain a lot more battery life.  In fact, they found that up to 75% of an app’s energy use goes to power the advertisements in free, ad-supported apps.  Notice the use of the word “free.”  The paid versions of the apps – the ones without the ads – don’t have the same effect.  It’s not just apps either – some mobile web pages were evaluated along with various browsers and that made a difference as well.

This raises a few questions in my mind.  If people can pay $1 and improve battery life, they’ll probably do so.  What does that do to the installed base of ads in the mobile sphere?  The study is very detailed about where the energy leaks occur, sort of like a report from an insulation installer walking around your house before winter begins (seal this window, you need to weatherstrip the doors).  Why don’t app developers spend more time on this?  Is it because they don’t particularly care?  The researchers recommend developers ask one question – Where is the energy spent inside my app?

The point for us as consumers is that “free” isn’t always better in the grand scheme of things.  More importantly, the point for those who depend on the continued growth of the ad-supported mobile economy is to focus on keeping those phones charged.  People can’t see and click on ads if their phones are dead.  It’s not the other guy’s problem even though they share the responsibility.  Finally, the lesson for all of us in business is to keep the consumer front and center.  Creating apps, web pages, or any other product that make us money and make our customers miserable is short-sighted.

And now I’m off to uninstall a bunch of apps!

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Making Snacks

Another thought-provoking report from the folks at eMarketer last week.  This one is called “The Smartphone Class: Connected Consumers Transform US Commerce and Culture.”  When you think about it, are you aware of anyone who has purchased a new phone in the last year that hasn’t bought a smartphone of some sort?  I don’t want to sound like a techno-snob and I’m well aware that the installed base of “feature phones” – those that some things such as text beyond just voice but aren’t really smart phones (Android, iPhones, etc.) is still pretty large (as in almost half), but giving them a ton of thought is akin to filming TV showsin black and white when color became the norm.

While Apple has not listened to my complaints ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In any event:

eMarketer estimates nearly 116 million Americans will use a smartphone at least monthly by the end of this year, up from 93.1 million in 2011. By 2013, they will represent over half of all mobile phone users, and by 2016, nearly three in five consumers will have a smartphone.

Turns out, eMarketer underestimated how quickly they’d be the majority:

50.4% of U.S. mobile subscribers owned smartphones in March 2012, up from 47.8% in December 2011, according to Q1 2012 data from Nielsen Mobile Insights. Broken down by operating system: Android was first with a 48.5% share, followed by Apple’s iOS (32%), RIM‘s BlackBerry (11.6%), Windows Mobile (4.1%), Windows Phone (1.7%), and other (2.1%).

What’s interesting is how this has changed user behavior.  People with these devices are “always on.”  They are constantly consuming content, generally in small increments.  A few minutes of news, a funny video, 10 minutes of a game while commuting.  The issue becomes how are the old guard of content producers adapting?  It’s great that TV shows are available across platforms, but the study tells us that a 20 minute TV episode is unlikely to hit the sweet spot of consumption.  Could it be that the nature of TV itself changes?  What made the 30 or 60 minute episode king other than an ability to tell people when to tune in?

So while “consuming content in frequent, small portions means more touch points for marketers,” it seems to me that users want to be touched differently from how they’ve been in the past.  If we’re producing content, we need to keep that in mind.  And I’ll just leave it there before we head into weirdness.

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